The shoulders are joints where your collarbone (clavicle), upper-arm bones (humerus) and shoulder blades (scapula) meet. The humerus usually fits into rounded socket of scapula on each part of the body. Each shoulder will be held in place with four muscles and tendons known as rotator cuff. This can cover and protect the humerus which allows you to move your arm.
The pain in the shoulder may have several causes. You might injure it in accident or fall and sometimes, shoulder pain happens due to arthritis. It can stem from problems in other body parts known as referred pain.
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Symptoms of a shoulder injury
The ball-and-socket joint of shoulder provides great motion though it comes from stability. Your shoulder joint gets dislocated often than other joint in the body. Also, repeated stress from how you use your shoulders on the job or at the time of playing sports may cause tears and other injuries.
You may ask yourself some questions to decide if you have a shoulder injury:
- Is your shoulder extremely stiff or painful?
- Can you move your arm normally?
- Do you think your shoulder can pop out of the socket?
- Is your shoulder strong for the things you do normally?
Signs you need to visit a doctor
- The shoulder joint appears deformed
- You cannot use shoulder at all
- The pain gets severe
- The shoulder begins to swell suddenly
- Your arm or hand is numb or weak
Causes of shoulder pain and risk factors with it
- Dislocation: If the shoulder is pulled back very hard or rotated too far, the top of your arm might pop out of its socket. You will feel pain, weakness bruising, swelling and numbness in your shoulder.
- Separation: The injury can affect the joint where your shoulder blade and collarbone come together. This is known as acromioclavicular (AC) joint.
- Fracture: A bone may crack or break when you fall or take hard hit. Common breaks include the humerus and the clavicle. You will experience bruising and pain and if the collarbone is broken, the shoulder can sag and you may not be able to lift your arm.
- Cartilage tear: You may injure cartilage that goes around the rim of shoulder joint. It can happen after doing same motion over and over. This injury may cause pain on reaching over your head and your shoulder can become weak.
- Rotator cuff tear: This is group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder for holding your arms in place and letting you lift your arm overhead. It starts showing wear and tear with age and shoulder may hurt at night when you try to lift things.
- Frozen shoulder: This condition restricts how much your joint will move. Unusual bands of tissue or adhesions accumulate in the joint and keep shoulder from moving freely. Your shoulder may freeze due to surgery or pain which enables adhesions to build up.
- Impingement: This generally occurs when tendons of rotator cuff will be pinched in the shoulder bones. This may cause pain and swelling.
- The bursa may become irritated and swollen when you repeat same motions over and over again. If you are having bursitis, then you may notice the pain most when moving your shoulder.
- Osteoarthritis: Also called degenerative joint disease, it affects any joint and shoulders. The cartilage between bones breaks down and rub together leading to stiffness and discomfort. This condition can be effectively managed with the help of a skilled right physical therapist or a qualified healthcare professional specializing in musculoskeletal issues.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: This ailment causes immune system of your body to attack protective lining into the joints. It may be the reason for stiffness and pain in the shoulders.
- Referred pain: The shoulders may hurt even when there is nothing wrong with them. This can denote some trouble with your liver, gallbladder or another organ.
- Heart attack: When the shoulder feels hurt and your chest feels tight or you find it difficult to breathe properly, then you may seek for medical help during emergency.
- This happens when the tendons making up rotator cuff become inflamed. It may occur slowly in due course or due to a direct hit to your shoulder.
- Bone spurs. Also called osteophytes, these small bone pieces rub up and wear on rotator cuff to keep shoulder from moving the way it should. They can cause rotator cuff tear or tendinitis.
It is advisable that you talk to a doctor and know about shoulder pain treatments for your condition.
How to diagnose shoulder pain
The doctor begins with a physical examination to identify structural problems and rule out anything that is related to your neck or spine. Then he will test your range of motion to determine how strong and flexible your shoulder is. This means moving your arms in different ways such as across the body, above your head, behind you, and rotating it at an angle of 90 or 180 degrees.
Your doctor may recommend performing one or more imaging tests for a closer look:
- X-rays: This will let the doctor find arthritis, bone spurs and other bone-related causes of shoulder pain. He may even recommend an arthrogram involving a shot of dye for the details to appear clearly.
- MRI scan: This uses powerful magnet and radio waves to create detailed images of your shoulder.
- CT scan: These are X-rays taken from different angles and when put together, they give your doctor a better idea of what is happening with your shoulder.
- Electromyography (EMG): This can measure electrical activity in your muscles to know whether there are problems with your nerves.
- Arthroscopy: This surgical method uses a small fiber-optic camera for the doctor to see high-definition images of your shoulder. There are cases when your doctor may treat the problem during the procedure.
So, if you are having any problem in the shoulder, then your treatment plan will possibly include some exercises to stretch and strengthen the joint and to improve your range of motion. You may visit this blog to know more about shoulder pain, its symptoms and necessary treatment to overcome it.